Monday, March 31, 2008

The Depression of 2008?


I'm amazed that some media reporting's comparing the current economic troubles to the Great Depression of the 1930s, for example, in this piece from the Independent (UK), "USA 2008: The Great Depression":

We knew things were bad on Wall Street, but on Main Street it may be worse. Startling official statistics show that as a new economic recession stalks the United States, a record number of Americans will shortly be depending on food stamps just to feed themselves and their families.

Dismal projections by the Congressional Budget Office in Washington suggest that in the fiscal year starting in October, 28 million people in the US will be using government food stamps to buy essential groceries, the highest level since the food assistance programme was introduced in the 1960s.

The increase – from 26.5 million in 2007 – is due partly to recent efforts to increase public awareness of the programme and also a switch from paper coupons to electronic debit cards. But above all it is the pressures being exerted on ordinary Americans by an economy that is suddenly beset by troubles. Housing foreclosures, accelerating jobs losses and fast-rising prices all add to the squeeze.

Emblematic of the downturn until now has been the parades of houses seized in foreclosure all across the country, and myriad families separated from their homes. But now the crisis is starting to hit the country in its gut. Getting food on the table is a challenge many Americans are finding harder to meet. As a barometer of the country's economic health, food stamp usage may not be perfect, but can certainly tell a story.

It's not perfect? That's putting it mildly.

So far, the most conclusive fact economists can assert is that we might - we might - be in a recession. The most recent unemployment figures have the U.S. up to 5 percent who are unable to find work. We had 25 percent in the 1930s, and food stamps we're unavailable then.

Sure, the article makes data comparisons to the 1960s, but anyone who mentions "the depression" is referring to the collapse of capitalism for the entire decade before WWII. The U.S. today is nowhere near such economic disaster.

I see help wanted signs all around, people are driving new cars, recruiting firms are not finding enough top managerial prospects, and some analysts say we'll likely avoid a recession.

The Independent article even noted that greater outreach efforts by the Department of Agriculture are to account for the 1.5 million or so more food aid recipients, but the author still goes on to suggest that: "But above all it is the pressures being exerted on ordinary Americans by an economy that is suddenly beset by troubles."

People may be losing their homes, but they're not overwhelmingly losing their jobs.

Until we see true bread lines like the 1930s, it's simply journalistic malpractice to make such arguments.

Photo Credit: The Independent (UK)

"Fitna": Islamist Univeralism and Western Civilization


I just finished watching "Fitna" at Dr. Sanity's page. She urges readers to watch the film with this recommendation:

...if you haven't seen "Fitna" yet, take 15 minutes to watch it....

Watching it is an act of freedom and defiance against those forces that want nothing more than to destroy the very values upon which western civilization is based.

The film includes footage from the September 11 attacks, as well as video of various imams calling out death to the infidels.

But "Fitna" also includes images from the Madrid train bombing of 2004, and by God there's few images of terrorist attacks after September 11 which demonstrate the fullness of Islamist depravity - the explosion itself rocks the train station in a fireball of hell, and no one can imagine the degree of fear and horror in the civilians fleeing the landing platform. Remind people of this next time some Bush-basher ridicules you as a "fear-mongerer."

FrontPageMagazine's got a brief article on Fitna as well:

Even before its official release, Fitna, the new film by Dutch politician Geert Wilders, served to demonstrate the dire threat that radical Islam poses to the West.

Muslim indignation at the film has fueled a phenomenon that has habitually stifled honest discussion about Islamic terror and its origins. When non-Muslims point out that Islamic jihadists commit acts of violence and are inspired to do so by the Qur'an, many non-Muslim and Muslim apologists for jihad, including many who are widely known as "moderates," respond by claiming that those who point to this truth are committing an act of "hatred," "bigotry," "Islamophobia," and the like. Curiously, these supposed voices of reason have not a word to say about the actual acts of violence and hatred committed by the jihadists -- or about the sources that engender them. Rather, the daring voice that reports on these actions is vilified.

Wilders' film speaks for itself. Quoting Qur'anic verses and Muslims themselves, Fitna clearly demonstrates that Muslims who engage in violence and hatred do so with reference to the Qur'an. In making this clear, Wilder's film also points the way to a solution to the crisis within the Islamic faith: Only when peaceful Muslims begin to turn their indignation upon the extremists among them, rather than upon Wilders and others critics who speak out against the dangers of Islamic fanaticism and its sources, will there be progress against the spread of jihad ideology and Islamic supremacism within the Muslim world and beyond. Unfortunately, the intolerant reaction to Wilders' film shows yet again that this is, at best, a dim hope.

Further, peaceful Muslims will also have to renounce those sections of the Koran that advocate conquering non-Muslim peoples.

I'm convinced Islam is a "religion of victory," as Malise Ruthven pointed out in a recent essay.

But watch the movie for yourself, via YouTube:

The FrontPage piece mentions the apologists for Islam, and suggests how any discussion of the threat of Islamist universalism to Western civilization is ridiculed ruthlessly as racist.

Academic research, however, provides systematic treatments of Islam's threat to democratic regimes. Note, for example, Ladan Boroumand and Roya Boroumand, in "Terror, Islam, and Democracy":

What are the attitudes, beliefs, and motives of the terrorists and the movement from which they sprang? What makes young men from Muslim countries willing, even eager, to turn themselves into suicide bombers? How did these men come to harbor such violent hatred of the West, and especially of the United States? What are the roots—moral, intellectual, political, and spiritual—of the murderous fanaticism we witnessed that day...?

As Western experts and commentators have wrestled with these questions, their intellectual disarray and bafflement in the face of radical Islamist (notice we do not say “Islamic”) terrorism have become painfully clear. This is worrisome, for however necessary an armed response might seem in the near term, it is undeniable that a successful long-term strategy for battling Islamism and its terrorists will require a clearer understanding of who these foes are, what they think, and how they understand their own motives. For terrorism is first and foremost an ideological and moral challenge to liberal democracy. The sooner the defenders of democracy realize this and grasp its implications, the sooner democracy can prepare itself to win the long-simmering war of ideas and values that exploded into full fury last September 11.

The key, really, is how willing are Americans and citizens of the industrialized West willing to defend democratic freedom?

That's the message of "Fitna," and it's none too soon and never more timely.

Democrats Seek to Rally Behind Obama

Jackie Calmes reports that top an increasing number of Democratic Party officials have begun a movement in support of Barack Obama's presidential campaign. Their hopes are to foster party unity and forestall a prolonged nomination battle that weakens the party heading into the November election:

Slowly but steadily, a string of Democratic Party figures is taking Barack Obama's side in the presidential nominating race and raising the pressure on Hillary Clinton to give up.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota is expected to endorse Sen. Obama Monday, according to a Democrat familiar with her plans. Meanwhile, North Carolina's seven Democratic House members are poised to endorse Sen. Obama as a group -- just one has so far -- before that state's May 6 primary, several Democrats say.

Helping to drive the endorsements is a fear that the Obama-Clinton contest has grown toxic and threatens the Democratic Party's chances against Republican John McCain in the fall.

Sen. Clinton rejects that view. Over the weekend, she reiterated her intent to stay in the race beyond the last contest in early June -- and all the way to the party's convention in Denver, if necessary.

"There are some folks saying we ought to stop these elections," she said Saturday in Indiana, which also has a May 6 primary. "I didn't think we believed that in America. I thought we of all people knew how important it was to give everyone a chance to have their voices heard and their votes counted."

Sen. Obama told reporters, "My attitude is that Sen. Clinton can run as long as she wants."

In earlier eras, the standoff between the two candidates might have been resolved by party elders acting behind the scenes. But no Democrat today has the power to knock heads and resolve the mess. Party Chairman Howard Dean says he was "dumbfounded" at the suggestion by Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy Friday that Sen. Clinton should pull out.

"Having run for president myself, nobody tells you when to get in, and nobody tells you when to get out," Mr. Dean said. "That's about the most personal decision you can make after all the time and effort you put into it."

New York Sen. Clinton still hopes that by turning in strong performances in the final primaries, she can blunt the momentum of her rival from Illinois and make the case that she is best-positioned to take on Sen. McCain. With Mr. Dean, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, former Vice President Al Gore and other party leaders remaining neutral, the question is whether the trend of party figures endorsing Sen. Obama will build enough momentum to tip the race.
I doubt the endorsement of a freshman senator (Klobuchar) will have a large effect on tamping down the Clinton machine's drive to leverage the nomination.

For example,
this morning's Los Angeles Times reports that Harold Ickes, who was deputy White House chief of staff for President Bill Clinton, is aggressively rounding up the support of party superdelegates, a drive that could possiby conclude with Hillary's nomination at the August convention:

Harold M. Ickes never forgets a favor, especially if he's the one who did the favor. So the veteran political operative made sure that, when the time was right, he alone would call Garry Shay, former chairman of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party. As Ickes saw it, he had helped Shay; now he was looking for Shay to help him.

And once Ickes started calling, he didn't stop until Shay said the words Ickes wanted to hear -- that he would support Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York at the Democratic National Convention in Denver in August.

Shay, as a member of the Democratic National Committee, is a superdelegate, one of nearly 800 elected officials, party leaders and activists who -- with the state primaries and caucuses now expected to end in stalemate -- may effectively end up picking the 2008 Democratic candidate for president.

And the man in charge of Clinton's feverish effort to lock up superdelegates is Ickes, whose enthusiasm for no-holds-barred politics sometimes rattles friends and foes alike. Ickes once got so carried away that he bit another political operative on the leg. Now, some 35 years later, at age 68, he has mellowed so little that it could happen again.

"It depends on how heated the circumstances are," he says.

Aggressive, profane, openly scornful of rivals, Ickes rules Clinton's superdelegate operation with an intimidating style and a mythic persona. He is "advisor, consigliere, enforcer and strategist" all rolled into one, says Dick Harpootlian, a former chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party who backs Obama.

What's more, Harpootlian says: "He's like a shadow. You hear he's here, you hear he's there, but you never actually see him."
Read the whole thing.

Basically, for all the talk of revotes in Michigan and Florida, or a "dream ticket" combining Clinton and Obama, the crucial political angle right now is the battle for the superdelegates.

Klobuchar, and Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey, who endorsed Obama over the weekend, are superdelegates, so their endorsements of Obama indicate top party officials see things going all the way to Denver.

See also my earlier post, "Clinton Vows to Battle to Convention."

Plus, via Memeorandum, see Avi Zenilman, "Superdelegates: Guide to Undecideds."

Muslim Students Association Seeks U.S. Destruction

Muslim Students Association

At a session of the Muslim Students Association West Conference ... in San Jose, Calif., men and women sat opposite each other.


FrontPageMagazine's running a series this week documenting the Muslim Students Association's holy war against the United States.

As argued in the article, the group, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, seeks to destroy America from within:

Established in January 1963 at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, the Muslim Students Association of the United States and Canada, or MSA (also known as MSA National) currently has chapters on nearly 600 college campuses across North America.) The relationship between MSA National and the individual university chapters is not a fixed hierarchy, but rather a loose connection. Thus the policies and views of the national organization may differ from those of some of the local chapters.) Stating that its mission is “to serve the best interest of Islam and Muslims in the United States and Canada so as to enable them to practice Islam as a complete way of life,”MSA is by far the most influential Islamic student organization in North America.

Founded by members of the Muslim Brotherhood, MSA was named in Mohammed Akram’s 1991 memorandum as one of the Brotherhood’s likeminded “organizations of our friends” who shared the common goal of destroying America and turning it into a Muslim nation. These “friends” were described by the Brotherhood as groups that could help teach Muslims “that their work in America is a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and ‘sabotaging’ its miserable house by their hands ... so that ... God’s religion Islam is made victorious over all other religions.”

From its inception, MSA had close links with the extremist Muslim World League, whose chapters’ websites have featured not only Osama bin Laden’s propaganda, but also publicity-recruiting campaigns for Wahhabi involvement with the Chechen insurgents in Russia. According to author and Islam expert Stephen Schwartz, MSA is a key lobbying organization for the Wahhabi sect of Islam.

MSA solicited donations for the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, whose assets the U.S. government seized in December 2001 because that organization was giving financial support to the terrorist group Hamas. MSA also has strong ties to the World Assembly of Muslim Youth.[15]

Charging that U.S. foreign policy is driven by militaristic imperialism, MSA steadfastly opposes the American military incursions into both Afghanistan and Iraq. The organization also follows the Arab propaganda line in the Middle East conflict and has condemned the anti-terrorist security fence that Israel has built in the West Bank as an illegal “apartheid wall” that violates the civil and human rights of Palestinians.

An influential member of the International ANSWER steering committee, MSA maintains a large presence at ANSWER-sponsored anti-war demonstrations. The pro-North Korea, pro-Saddam Hussein ANSWER is a front organization of the Marxist-Leninist Workers World Party.

Local chapters of MSA signed a February 20, 2002 document, composed by the radical group Refuse & Resist (a creation of the Revolutionary Communist Party’s) condemning military tribunals and the detention of immigrants apprehended in connection with post-9/11 terrorism investigations. The document read, in part: “They the U.S. government are coming for the Arab, Muslim and South Asian immigrants. … The recent ‘disappearances,’ indefinite detention, the round-ups, the secret military tribunals, the denial of legal representation, evidence kept a secret from the accused, the denial of any due process for Arab, Muslim, South Asians and others, have chilling similarities to a police state.”

MSA has strongly opposed the Patriot Act, which it describes as an “infamous” piece of legislation. The organization’s chapters across the United States have similarly denounced virtually every other national security initiative implemented by the U.S. government since the 9/11 attacks.

MSA chose not to endorse or participate in the May 14, 2005 “Free Muslims March Against Terror,” an event whose stated purpose was to “send a message to the terrorists and extremists that their days are numbered ... and to send a message to the people of the Middle East, the Muslim world and all people who seek freedom, democracy and peaceful coexistence that we support them.”

But while it is possible to understand its political orientation from some of the positions it has taken on large national issues, the Muslim Students Association comes into sharper focus in the actions of the individual chapters that do its work every day on campuses across America. The following analysis of 18 separate campus chapters of MSA will make this clear.

See also, "Muslim Students: How American should they be?," and "Muslim Youth Forge Own Path in America."

For more information, see "No Enemies on the Left? Progressives for Barack Obama."

Photo Credit: New York Times

Bush Gets First Pitch at New Nationals Stadium

The left blogosphere's getting worked up over President Bush's opening-night first-pitch at the new home of the Washington Nationals. Bush was booed, but also cheered, as Ben Feller points out:

By the time Bush emerged onto the baseball field, he had ditched the gray sports coat and popped out of the home dugout in a red Nationals jacket. He was greeted by plenty of loud jeers, but also determined cheers, as if the fans in both camps were trying to outduel each other.
Here's the YouTube:

I don't really see the point in the left's applauding of an American president getting booed at an opening day baseball game. It's unpatriotic.

If Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama takes office in January I'm not going be pleased, but if I were to see either of them at a public event, I'd give them my respect as our national leader.

Note something here as well: One of the left blogs cheering the Bush-boos loudest is
Think Progress, who just last week demonstrated its complete lack of credibility in its fallacious attempt to smear John McCain for alleged plagiarism. Think Progress's apology for its hackery is here.

See also, Charles Krauthammer, "
Bush Derangement Syndrome."

Cordesman Shakes the Kaleidoscope of Iraq

Anthony Cordesman has a powerful essay up today, at the New York Times, on Iraq's factional conflict. The Basra offensive apparently's less a democratic consolidation than a true power grab by the central government:

EVEN if American and Iraqi forces are able to eliminate Al Qaeda in Iraq, there are still three worrisome possibilities of new forms of fighting that could divide Iraq and deny the United States any form of “victory....”

As I traveled through southern Iraq, many people I spoke to were worried about how the October elections would play out. The first problem is that there are no real indigenous political parties operating with local leaders. The second is the framework, which is still undecided. If the election follows the model of the 2005 vote, Iraqis will vote for long lists of candidates from the main parties (confronting many unfamiliar names) and there will be no allowance for the direct election of members of the Parliament who would represent a given area or district. Optimists hope that local leaders and parties will emerge before the election; realists foresee an uncertain mess.

There were also differences of opinion over Mr. Sadr’s cease-fire. Was he simply waiting out the American-Iraqi effort to defeat Al Qaeda before allowing his army to become active again? Or was he repositioning himself for a more normal political life? Most likely, he is doing both. He may be as confused by the uncertain nature of Iraqi politics as everyone else, and he may be dealing with a movement so fractured and diverse that effective control is nearly impossible.

In any event, it is clear that Basra has become a special case. Since the American-led invasion, it had been under the protection of the British, who opted for a strategy of not-so-benign neglect. Thus the power struggle in the city — Iraq’s main port — differs sharply from that in the other Shiite areas. Basra was essentially divided up among Shiite party mafias, each of which had its own form of extortion and corruption. They sometimes fight and feud, and there are reasons to call them criminal gangs, but they have established crude modus vivendi.

Basra also feels the influence of Iran far more than the other Shiite governorates. Iran’s religious paramilitary force, Al Quds, has been an equal-opportunity supplier of weapons and money to all the Shiite militias, effectively ensuring that it will support the winner, regardless of who the winner turns out to be.

There are good reasons for the central government to reassert control of Basra. It is not peaceful. It is the key to Iraq’s oil exports. Gang rule is no substitute for legitimate government. But given the timing and tactics, it is far from clear that this offensive is meant to serve the nation’s interest as opposed to those of the Islamic Supreme Council and Dawa.

How will it affect America? If the fighting sets off a broad, lasting, violent power struggle between Shiite factions, most of the security gains of the last year could be lost and our military role broadened. There is also no guarantee that a victory by Dawa and the Islamic Supreme Council will serve the cause of political accommodation or lead to fair elections and the creation of legitimate local and provincial governments. Such an outcome, in fact, might favor a Dawa and Islamic Supreme Council “Iraqracy,” not democracy.
Allahpundit argues that Cordesman's "never shied from telling either side what it doesn’t want to hear" about the war's progress, noting that he's again "shaken the kaleidoscope on the conflict:

Ace calls me the Eeyore of the right-wing blogosphere, so let me stay true to form by saying that if the goal of the assault on Basra was to cripple Sadr’s popular support and avoid a rout at the polls by his fans, it’s not clear to me that they’ve succeeded. The heavy losses inflicted on the JAM are lovely but there’s no way to know what the breakdown is there between regular forces and Iranian-backed “rogue” forces, and certainly no way to know how that pounding’s going to shake out in terms of voting for the provincial elections. Maybe it makes the Sadrists less intimidating, or maybe it makes them more sympathetic. Likewise, I’m not sure why the offer of truce from Sadr is some unambiguous capitulation and victory for Maliki when we haven’t even seen yet what it means in practice. Israel and Hezbollah reached a truce in 2006; it hasn’t done much to stabilize Lebanon or disarm Nasrallah. If the JAM comes out with its hands up, wonderful. If, instead, Maliki reneges on his promise to run them off the field by declaring “mission accomplished” and pulling out while leaving them with their weapons intact, not so wonderful. We’ll see; the left jumped the gun in pronouncing the surge a failure and I’m disinclined to repeat their mistake in pronouncing this a success. The fact that Iraqi officials sought Sadr out in Iran isn’t the best sign:

The substance of the nine-point statement, released by Mr. Sadr on Sunday afternoon, was hammered out in elaborate negotiations over the past few days with senior Iraqi officials, some of whom traveled to Iran to meet with Mr. Sadr, according to several officials involved in the negotiations…

Many Iraqi politicians say that Mr. Maliki’s political capital has been severely depleted by the campaign and that he is now in the curious position of having to turn to Mr. Sadr, a longtime rival and now his opponent in battle, for a solution to the crisis.

Hope for the best but read the Cordesman piece. A Basra free of the Mahdi Army is really only a Basra owned by militias from SCIRI, Fadhila, and Dawa. A good start, but only if it really is a start. Exit quotation: “The Sadrists will likely view their survival as victory.”

See additional analysis at Memeorandum.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Democrats Hijacked by Hard-Left Base, Lieberman Says

Joseph Lieberman

I watched Senator Joseph Lieberman this morning, appearing on "This Week With George Stephanopoulos," argue that today's Democratic Party has been taken over its radical netroots base. Michael Scherer at Swampland has a post up on it, with Lieberman's transcripted comments:

Well, I say that the Democratic Party changed. The Democratic Party today was not the party it was in 2000. It's not the Bill Clinton-Al Gore party, which was strong internationalists, strong on defense, pro-trade, pro-reform in our domestic government. It's been effectively taken over by a small group on the left of the party that is protectionist, isolationist and basically will - and very, very hyperpartisan. So it pains me. I'm a Democrat who came to the party in the era of President John F. Kennedy. It's a strange turn of the road when I find among the candidates running this year that the one, in my opinion, closest to the Kennedy legacy, the John F. Kennedy legacy, is John S. McCain.

Lieberman also argues that John McCain's the one candidate in the race today that best reflects the hope and vision of John F. Kennedy, and his call to "pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship," to guarantee the survival of goodness and liberty. Here's the interview, via YouTube:

It's hard to find another current political official of either party who can speak more authoritatively on the current radicalism of today's Democrats. Lieberman was the target, for example, of Daily Kos efforts to purge war-supporting Democrats from the party, and the Kos-faction backed Ned Lamont's win over Lieberman in Connecticut's senatorial primary in 2006.

But let's be precise: Note exactly what Lieberman says, that the Democrats have been "effectively taken over by a small group on the left of the party..."

I would add that Lieberman's being charitable (the Bolsheviks were also a small group). As a current member of Congress - and a friend and colleague to McCain - the Connecticut Senator's sparing in his description of how radicalized the base of the Democratic Party has become.

Of course, Lieberman's routinely demonized by the left blogosphere. For example, in one comment thread at Kos, "Sharon Jumper" argued that Lieberman, who is Jewish, should be gassed

Given a choice between my dog and Lieberman, I’d gas him without thinking twice.

by Sharon Jumper on Mon May 14, 2007 at 02:42:04 PM PDT


It’s too bad when people use animal references to derogate people with. Animals are not deserving of these kinds of insults!

by Loquatrix on Mon May 14, 2007 at 02:47:36 PM PDT


Sharon , jeez

I know you didn’t mean it that way, but a reference to gassing a Jew needs to be hidden.

I hope you will join me in asking that this comment be hidden and that there will not be a pile on....

by TeresaInPa on Mon May 14, 2007 at 03:15:18 PM PDT


Lieberman's beneath animals, although at least "Teresa" tries to pull some of her Kos-colleagues back from the ignominy of their anti-Semitism.

There's more, of course. Left bloggers today are raging over Lieberman's "This Week" interview.

For example, Cliff Schecter's trembling in his hatred of Lieberman:

I can barely type, this man gets me so worked up my hands shake.

Via Memeorandum, John Amato at Crooks and Liars argues that Lieberman's made the full "Zell Miller transition," which implies that the Connecticut Senator's now finalized his betrayal of the Democratic Party, and that he's in the same league of fascist evil to which Miller has been condemned by the left.

Lieberman's description of today's Democrats provides a little more support - anecdotal as it may be - for my hypothesis that the Democrats' far-left wing "progressive" base has moved the party over to the radical fringe.

Radical netroots activists believe that electoral mobilization is the vehicle for actualizing their program of revolutionary socialism this year.

For more on this, see my "no enemies" series, "No Enemies on the Left? Progressives for Barack Obama."

Clinton Vows to Battle to Convention

Clinton Supporters

Hillary Clinton has pledged to take the nomination fight all the way to the Democratic National Convention. The Washington Post has the story:

In her most definitive comments to date on the subject, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton sought Saturday to put to rest any notion that she will drop out of the presidential race, pledging in an interview to not only compete in all the remaining primaries but also continue until there is a resolution of the disqualified results in Florida and Michigan.

A day after Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean urged the candidates to end the race by July 1, Clinton defied that call by declaring that she will take her campaign all the way to the Aug. 25-28 convention if necessary, potentially setting up the prolonged and divisive contest that party leaders are increasingly anxious to avoid.

"I know there are some people who want to shut this down and I think they are wrong," Clinton said in an interview during a campaign stop here Saturday. "I have no intention of stopping until we finish what we started and until we see what happens in the next 10 contests and until we resolve Florida and Michigan. And if we don't resolve it, we'll resolve it at the convention -- that's what credentials committees are for.

"We cannot go forward until Florida and Michigan are taken care of, otherwise the eventual nominee will not have the legitimacy that I think will haunt us," said the senator from New York. "I can imagine the ads the Republican Party and John McCain will run if we don't figure out how we can count the votes in Michigan and Florida."

Asked if there was a scenario in which she would drop out before the last primaries on June 3, Clinton said no. "I am committed to competing everywhere that there is an election," she said.

The Clinton campaign requested the interview Saturday to talk about how she could win and to emphasize her focus on Michigan and Florida.

Her remarks come as Clinton faces a mounting drumbeat, driven by the campaign of Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and his backers, for her to bow out and avert a party crisis. Obama's supporters argue that he is too far ahead in pledged delegates for Clinton to catch up; Clinton counters by saying that neither of them has secured the 2,024 delegates needed for the nomination.

At a news conference Saturday in Johnstown, Pa., Obama welcomed Clinton to continue campaigning. "My attitude is that Senator Clinton can run as long as she wants," he said. "She is a fierce and formidable opponent, and she obviously believes she would make the best nominee and the best president."

Central to Clinton's case that she can still win is solving the question of Michigan and Florida, whose Democratic parties scheduled primaries in January in violation of national party rules, leading to their contests being invalidated.

Dean has said he would like to find a way to seat the two delegations, but no agreement has been reached among the state parties, the Clinton and Obama campaigns, and the DNC. The failure to schedule a revote or to count the earlier results has been a major setback for Clinton, who won both primaries, though she was the only Democratic candidate on the ballot in Michigan.
From a strategic perspective, given the individual stakes for Clinton politically, I can't question her decision to fight all the way to Denver.

Still, Clinton's bid at this point is the longest of long-shots, as seen, for example, in what some say is the weakening of her case that she's more competitive in the Electoral College vote.

Note, however, how Michael Barone's reporting that Clinton's actually more likely to win the national popular vote over the course of the primaries, which could again bolster the Clinton case to continue on in the race:

The Clinton campaign would do even better to use population rather than electoral votes, since smaller states are overrepresented in the Electoral College. By my count, based on the 2007 Census estimates, Clinton's states have 132,214,460 people (160,537,525 if you include Florida and Michigan), and Obama's states have 101,689,480 people. States with 39,394,152 people have yet to vote. In percentage terms this means Clinton's states have 44 percent of the nation's population (53 percent if you include Florida and Michigan) and Obama's states have 34 percent of the nation's population. The yet-to-vote states have 13 percent of the nation's population.

Thus the Clinton campaign could argue that Obama cannot win states with most of the nation's people even if he wins all the remaining eight primaries. Could argue—but I don't think that's going to persuade any superdelegates that Clinton is the real winner.

This exceedingly fine-tuned debate most likely shows the correctness of Clinton's decision to fight on. Indeed, if you read the remainder of Barone's essay, there remains a distinct possibility of Obama failing to decisively shift the superdelegate momentum his way in key upcoming primaries, such as Pennsylvania, Indiana, and North Carolina.

Perhaps all this is democracy at work, a vindication of the modern primay system as participatory and representative.

I'm just glad the GOP's race is wrapped up, and that I'm not facing the anguish of seeing my party twist in the wind indefinitely.

Photo Credit: Washington Post

Basra Offensive Revives Iraq Election Debate

McCain in Iraq

As I noted this morning in, "Basra Offensive Issues Major Losses to Mahdi Army," the new fighting in Iraq's giving new hope to the antiwar left that they can paint the war as a disaster, bolstering their case for an unconditional retreat in the fall campaign.

It turns out
the New York Times has a major story on the political angle, with a dicussion of the competing partisan assessments of the implications of this week's fighting:

The heavy fighting that broke out last week as Iraqi security forces tried to oust Shiite militias from Basra is reverberating on the presidential campaign trail and posing new challenges and opportunities to the candidates, particularly Senator John McCain.

The fierce fighting — and the threat that it could undo a long-term truce that has greatly helped to reduce the level of violence in Iraq — thrust the war back into the headlines and the public consciousness just as it had been receding behind a tide of economic concerns. And it raised anew a host of politically charged questions about whether the current strategy is succeeding, how capable the Iraqis are of defending themselves and what the potential impact would be of any American troop withdrawals.

Mr. McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, has made the Iraq war a centerpiece of his campaign; he rode to success in the primary season partly on his early advocacy of the troop buildup. The battle in Basra broke out as he returned from a trip to Iraq this month, proclaiming that violence there was down and that the troop escalation was working.

Mr. McCain, of Arizona, said he was encouraged that Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s government had sent its troops to reclaim Basra from the Shiite militias. “I think it’s a sign of the strength of his government,” Mr. McCain said Friday at a stop in Las Vegas. “I think it’s going to be a tough fight. We know that these militias are well entrenched there. I hope they will succeed and succeed quickly.”

The Democrats, who are calling for phased troop withdrawals, are beginning to point to the fighting in Basra as evidence that the American troop buildup has failed to provide stability and political reconciliation — particularly if the fighting leads one militia, the Mahdi Army, to pull out of its cease-fire; that could lead to a new spate of sectarian violence across the country. Some are saying the fighting strengthens their case for troop withdrawals.

But the McCain campaign is hoping to turn that argument on its head, asserting that the battle in Basra shows just how dangerous the situation on the ground in Iraq is. It says this bolsters Mr. McCain’s argument that a premature withdrawal of American troops would lead to more widespread violence, instability and perhaps even genocide.

“I think that what this demonstrates is that there are very powerful forces that still remain that do not want to see the success of the central government and that would relish the prospect of the American withdrawal so that they could try to fight or shoot their way into power,” said Randy Scheunemann, the McCain campaign’s senior foreign policy adviser. “Would you rather have the Maliki government in control, or the Iranian-backed special groups in control, or Al Qaeda in control?”

But at a news conference on Saturday in Johnstown, Pa., Senator Barack Obama of Illinois suggested the news from Basra highlighted his contention that American military involvement could not solve the deep-seated problems facing Iraq.

A point I've made in discussing this week's conflict is that the renewed fighting reveals only that our job in Iraq is not complete, and that the Basra offensive indicates intensifying efforts by the al Maliki regime to consolidate central government control over holdout regions of partial sub-national autonomy.

The tide has shifted against the al Mahdi brigades, a turn of events on the ground with huge implications, as Power Line suggests:

This episode might prove to be, as President Bush suggested, a defining moment in Iraq's post-war history. The main knock on Maliki's government has been that it is a Shia instrument that has sometimes been infiltrated by radical Shia elements. Sunnis have often been suspicious of the government on this ground. The fact that Iraqi soldiers took the lead in rooting out Sadr's militia may demonstrate to Iraqis that Maliki's government represents all Iraqis, not just the Shia.
Photo Credit: New York Times

Allegations of McCain Plagiarism Reveal Left-Wing Hackery

As I noted earlier, this week Think Progress accused John McCain of plagiarizing his foreign policy speech Wednesday from Los Angeles (the FOX story on the allegations is here).

Think Progress' unrestrained excitement made the blog look foolish, and I see this as a perfect case of the slimy attack politics of the left-wing blogosphere, so I was pleased to see Dean Barnett's story on the affair at the Weekly Standard:

LAST THURSDAY, A controversy erupted in the blogosphere. Like most controversies that start in the blogosphere and die there as opposed to gaining a second and more meaningful life in the mainstream media, the entire affair was a tempest in a virtual teapot. But this incident was a particularly pregnant one, as it revealed the difficulties the left will have in developing a coherent attack against John McCain. It also highlighted Barack Obama's most significant weakness in a match against Senator McCain.

In a campaign address to the Los Angeles World Council, McCain made a point of stressing his hatred for war:

I detest war. It might not be the worst thing to befall human beings, but it is wretched beyond all description. When nations seek to resolve their differences by force of arms, a million tragedies ensue. The lives of a nation's finest patriots are sacrificed.

Innocent people suffer and die. Commerce is disrupted; economies are damaged; strategic interests shielded by years of patient statecraft are endangered as the exigencies of war and diplomacy conflict. Not the valor with which it is fought nor the nobility of the cause it serves, can glorify war. Whatever gains are secured, it is loss the veteran remembers most keenly.

The statement is eloquent and powerful, but given the speaker, unremarkable. There are few people in America who can speak so personally to their dislike for war than a fellow who spent a half decade in the Hanoi Hilton. If there's anyone in this presidential race who has cause for hating war, it's obviously John McCain. Compared to McCain's personal experience, Barack Obama's exposure to war is a mere intellectual construct. Even Hillary Clinton, the Lioness of Tuzla, can't compete with McCain in this area.

For reasons that still mystify, men of the left decided that McCain's denunciation of war represented a soft spot. The bumbling gumshoes at the lefty website Think Progress got busy investigating McCain's speech and discovered that Rear Admiral Timothy Ziemer had given a speech featuring remarkably similar language in 1996. "Plagiarism!" the left wing blogosphere cried, nearly in unison.

The American Prospect's Ezra Klein seemed the most excited by the "scandal," apparently thinking that with proper massaging, it could devastate McCain:

Some of you will remember that Joe Biden's 1988 bid for the presidency was felled when he plagiarized a major speech from British politician Neil Kinnock. Now, via Think Progress, McCain looks to be risking a similar fate. Turns out quite a bit of his foreign policy speech yesterday was stolen, without credit, from a speech Admiral Timothy Ziemer gave in 1996.

What's particularly telling is where the lifting happened--in the section where McCain explained his deep hatred of war. Turned out it wasn't quote his after all. If that section of the speech, which seemed so very personal, but was in fact anything but, than what can we really take away from the address? The point of the speech was that McCain's core beliefs militate powerfully against war. But that's not true for his policies, and we now learn, those aren't strictly his core beliefs. This seems like a big deal to me.
Without leaving you in any further suspense as to how the brouhaha ended, suffice to say McCain's critics beclowned themselves in the extreme. Turns out Admiral Ziemer's 1996 speech borrowed from a speech that McCain gave in 1995. The fact that the McCain campaign had posted the 1995 speech on its website should compound his critics' embarrassment. The additional fact that no one at Think Progress contacted the McCain campaign or even checked the Senator's website before charging "Plagiarism!" will likely cause professional writers to think twice before citing a Think Progress report in the future.

But the left's sloppy hackery here really isn't the point. Let's say for the sake of argument that John McCain did make a speech in which he borrowed a phrase or two to most clearly express his disdain for war. In Ezra Klein's analysis, that happenstance would beg the inference that McCain is a warmonger who does not truly dislike war.

If the Democrats and their house intellectuals decide to fight a campaign battle on this front, I imagine they'll delight the McCain campaign. John McCain doesn't have to rely on words to convey his disdain for war. His personal history speaks quite eloquently in that regard. For most reasonable people, that personal history will end any debate over whether John McCain is fond of war. If Obama supporters want to spend time trying to convince voters that a man who spent five and a half years as a POW getting tortured and maimed now bears a fondness for war, the McCain campaign will likely happily wish them luck as they tackle such a futile endeavor.

SO WHY DID CERTAIN Obama supporters make such a big deal about McCain's alleged "plagiarism?" After all, these are intelligent and savvy people most of the time. And yet they wanted to deliberately steer the conversation to McCain's valorous background. The answer is to be found in the kind of campaign Barack Obama is running and indeed must run.

In terms of personal accomplishments and service to country, Obama's cupboard is virtually bare next to McCain's. The same goes with political actions. You don't have to parse a John McCain speech to figure out where he stands. Heck, you don't even have to listen to McCain's speeches to know where he stands. From campaign finance to immigration to the Bush tax cuts to the Iraq War, McCain has been a man of action rather than words. Such men develop records and reputations. They become known quantities.

On the other end of the spectrum stands Barack Obama. Obama lacks a biography that tells you where he stands. He also has taken no defining or even noteworthy political action in his short time in public life.

And that's where the speeches come in. Obama's campaign is one purely of words. Verbiage matters for the Obama campaign, more than it has for any presidential campaign in memory. Verbiage matters for Obama in a way it couldn't possibly matter for McCain. The only way Obama can tell the country of his plans and of his basic nature is through speeches and other campaign set pieces. When Obama said "words matter" to rebut one of Hillary Clinton's attacks, he had it right. For his campaign, nothing matters more.

It's therefore understandable that Obama partisans would prefer the presidential race to hinge on the candidates' words and even on their words' provenance. That's Obama's home court. Obama is a remarkable speaker, and a gifted writer. McCain is neither.

But McCain is a man of action, one who has a 40 year history of being a man of action. And even in politics, actions speak louder than words.

See also my earlier post, "Blogging Foreign Policy: Bereft of Credentials, Left Strains to Shift Debate," where I take down the antiwar blog commentariat, and especially Cernig, who also engages in his own regular rounds of hackery.

Basra Offensive Issues Major Losses to Mahdi Army

Basra Fighting

The al Mahdi violence in Iraq has given the antiwar left a new breath of life for their endless recriminations against the Bush administration and the war.

Reading prominent posts by war opponents sees a cheerleading push among those rooting for the other side (
Cernig and Juan Cole are two perfect examples).

Yet after five days of conflict, events are showing al Maliki's central government to be gaining on the renegade Shiite faction,
as Bill Roggio reports:
With the fifth day of fighting in Baghdad, Basrah and the South completed, the Mahdi Army has suffered major losses over the past 36 hours. The Mahdi Army has not faired well over the past five days of fighting, losing an estimated two percent of its combat power, using the best case estimate for the size of the militia....

The major political parties in the ruling Coalition
remain united in supporting the offensive against the Mahdi Army and the Iranian-backed Special Groups cells. President Jalal Talabani and Massoud Barazani, the president of the Kurdish Regional Government reiterated their support for the operation on Friday, while Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki ratcheted up the rhetoric against the Shia terror groups.

Maliki called the Shia terrorists "
worse than al Qaeda" and vowed to remain in Basrah until the operation is completed. "Our determination is strong ... those who break the law are punished, and those who draw their weapons in the face of the state are punished," Maliki said on Iraqi state television.
Further, the news this morning indicates that al Sadr is issuing a stand-down order to his forces:

Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr on Sunday ordered his fighters off the streets nationwide and called on the government to stop raids against his followers and free them from prison.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki issued a statement calling the order “a step in the right direction” towards resolving six days of violence sparked by operations against al-Sadr's backers in the oil-rich southern city of Basra.

Al-Sadr’s nine-point statement was issued by his headquarters in the holy city of Najaf and broadcast through loudspeakers at Shiite mosques.

Noting the contrasting interpretations of the direction of conflict, Captain Ed asks, "Remind Me Again — Who’s Losing in Basra?"

See also my earlier entry, "
Contrast in Iraq: How Do We Demonstrate Progress?"

Hat tip:

Photo Credit: USA Today

Stop-Loss Policy: No Secret to Enlistees

I'm seeing more reviews coming out on "Stop-Loss," the new Iraq war film by Kimberly Peirce (the New York Times' review is here).


I've thought about the film a great deal. For one thing, the movie's considered a work apart from other recent cinematic efforts on Iraq. It's well-acted and heartfelt, and raises questions people should be thinking about, issues that turn around and rebut the antiwar message of the film.

Specifically, we have an all-volunteer military. We do not have a draft, and the Pentagon's "stop-loss" policy is not a "backdoor draft," in contrast the major premise of the movie.

I raised these points my initial review,
"Stop-Loss": The Thinking Man's Antiwar Movie?" For example:

...there's some power in this movie, which is worth seeing and evaluating. In addition to the gritty realism of the battles scenes, the movie's well-acted, particulary as seen in Phillippe's Staff Sgt. King. In Phillippe's hands, King comes off as a vigorous all-America fighter, in Iraq and on the streets back home, where his realizes his personal beliefs have been betrayed.I disagree with those beliefs, which is that the Pentagon's stop-loss policy is tantamount to a "backdoor draft," and that's the major problem with this movie (and where I can understand LGF's dismissal of the film).

We have an all-volunteer service, so when young Americans sign up to fight they go on the basis of choice and volition. Contractually, soldiers can be recalled to battle, and to be shocked, as Phillippe's King is when told he's returning to Iraq, is disingenuous, if not outright storytelling fraud.

Sure, families have been hit hard by the separations, the battle injuries, and the war dead. But the the consequences of joining the service are known in advance. Soldiers are not victims, no matter how hard the anitwar left tries to make us believe.
Plus, the film's gripping opening scene of battle provides a realistic portrait of the constraints on American fighters, who chase insurgents in urban environs peopled by civilians - old men, women, and children - who are then used murderously as human shields by the Iraqi terrorist fighters. No wonder many Americans have trouble adapting upon return home. Even the hardest warrior wants to battle legitimate enemy combatants, not civilians pawns who're sacrificed by Iraqi militias to keep the insurgency alive.

One of concern I had is with new Army recruitees' knowledge of the stop-loss policy. A major flaw in the movie's in how Ryan Phillippe's Staff Sgt. Brandon King makes it seem as if he didn't know he could be sent back to Iraq. Frankly, this premise is totally untenable. It's an attempt by the director to make the soldiers look like victims, when they are not.

But check out
Urban Grounds' clarification of this question:

My little brother and I enlisted in the US Army together in August of 1990. The recruiter who signed us up went over our contract with us very thoroughly.

As the United States had just declared war on Iraq, he also explained the portion of our enlistment contract that detailed the Army’s Stop-Loss policy.

While I knew plenty of Soldiers who didn’t like the policy, I didn’t know any who didn’t know about it and that it was a part of their enlistment contract.

Which is why I think that the new movie
Stop Loss is just another piece of Liberal anti-war, anti-military rhetoric.
"Stop-Loss" is liberal and antiwar, but it's not useless in its message, as I've indicated.

We will not doubt be seeing more impartial movies of Iraq. The war still rages, of course, so there's no opportunity for historical distance. But when conserservative critics,
like that at Libertas, fail to analyze the totality of the film, nuances are lost in the outrage of opposition:

What is possibly left to say about a poorly produced, poorly acted, poorly directed, and very poorly written anti-war film that defames our troops…?
Read the whole review, much of which is agreeable. It does bear some consideration, of course, to think about the sacrifice of our soldiers, and to reiterate the military service is on a volunteer basis, and we might have less angst over the war if more people actually supported to decision for young Americans to join up and fight in the first place.

See Reihan Salam's essay, "
Why Stop-Loss Matters," for more reflections along these lines.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

McCain's Foreign Policy: Intensifying the Bush Doctrine?

McCain in Los Angeles

Spencer Ackerman argues that John McCain's foreign policy speech Wednesday was not a tempered break from the Bush administration's record, but rather an aggressive update of it:
Since he began running for president, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has embraced President George W. Bush's foreign policy. He has done so for a simple and understandable reason: it was McCain's policy first.

"I'd institute a policy that I call 'rogue state rollback,'" McCain
said during a GOP primary debate in February 2000. "I would arm, train, equip, both from without and from within, forces that would eventually overthrow the governments and install free and democratically elected governments." Though Bush himself would not embrace McCain's weltanshauung until after 9/11, this approach to global affairs would eventually become known as the Bush Doctrine.

Yet when McCain walked to the podium yesterday at the Los Angeles World Affairs Council to deliver his clearest
speech yet outlining a McCain foreign policy - a policy characterized by what could be endless wars - the media almost uniformly declared it a break with Bush.

McCain sanded down the edges of the Bush Doctrine by urging more consulting with allies and action on climate change. The result? "Republican presidential candidate John McCain suggested that as president, his foreign-policy approach would be different, more collaborative," Fox News's Molly Henneberg reported. Added CNN's Dana Bash:"This speech was mainly an attempt to highlight a McCain world view quite different from the president's."

Notably, one person who didn't jump at the chance to distance McCain from Bush was McCain's chief foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann. Asked by reporters if McCain intended to portray himself as departing from Bush's legacy, Scheunemann replied, "I'll leave that to you." For good reason: McCain represents not a break from the Bush Doctrine, but rather its intensification.

Much as Bush has never backed away from his invasion and occupation of Iraq, McCain endorsed a maximal, not minimal, definition of U.S. goals. "Success in Iraq is the establishment of peaceful, stable, prosperous, democratic states that pose no threat to neighbors and contribute to the defeat of terrorists." Withdrawal would be "morally reprehensible" and an "unconscionable act of betrayal." It would yield, in McCain's telling, "genocide, and destabilize the entire [Middle East] as neighboring powers come to the aid of their favored factions." Iran would see "our premature withdrawal as a victory."

What of Iraq today? "Those who argue that our goals in Iraq are unachievable are wrong. Just as they were wrong a year ago, when they declared the war in Iraq already lost." McCain proceeded to rattle off some already-outdated statistics comparing the late-2007 reduction in violence to 2005 levels -- levels that already led his fellow Vietnam veteran, Rep. Jack Murtha (D-Penn.) to break from his hawkish past and endorse withdrawal.

McCain appeared divorced from reality over the war. As he spoke, weak government forces battled Moqtada Sadr's Mahdi Army. More than 200 have died so far in those clashes -- clashes which, according to NPR, have led government security forces to defect to Sadr's movement. With the departure of the final "surge" brigade from Iraq next week, the window during which the U.S. could operate with maximum military strength closes, and in the wake of that closure comes the most serious challenge to the government's authority since Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki took power in the spring of 2006.

Further demonstrating McCain's unmooring, the enemy described in his speech is an undifferentiated "radical Islamic terrorism." It is less an entity than a metaphysical concept -- existing everywhere and without distinction.

McCain draws no distinction between the puny Al Qaeda in Iraq and the Qaeda senior leadership in Pakistan's lawless tribal areas. Interestingly, the U.S. military in Iraq does: it recently gave a briefing that described Al Qaeda in Iraq's foot soldiers as
brainwashed twentysomethings rather than fanatical murderers.

Ackerman goes on to argue that Iran's the supreme victor from the Iraq war (as the conflict's "tied down" the U.S.), and he suggests that democratization has proceeded in the Middle East only to increase "sectarianism, religious fanaticism, illiberalism."

Note first that Ackerman's argument that Iraq's strengthened Iran, with the U.S., like Gulliver, "tied down and bloodied," has been discredited by recent analyses by Middle East experts and military analysts (see
Reuel Marc Gerecht and Fouad Ajami, and Jules Crittenden, respectively). Iraq's threat to Middle East stability is long gone (a point conveniently forgotten by antiwar hawks), and from Damascus to Tehran to Tripoli the groups cited by Ackerman as strengthened have become marginalized at home or ostracized abroad. People in the Middle East have no taste for a some prolonged neo-imperial domination, but they welcome U.S. power as the handmaiden to freedom. American capabilities are vital to the defeat of mayhem and petty tyrants across the region.

As for Ackerman's "undifferentiated" radical terrorists who are supposedly making McCain look "unmoored,"
Amir Taheri made a geopolitical case today that McCain's right, actually, "that there are deadly and determined groups dedicated to destruction of the U.S. in the name of a perverted version of Islam, and that they need to be resisted, fought and ultimately defeated."

Underneath all of this, of course, is Ackerman's premises for U.S. international action. These notions, radical in essence, are rooted in a foreign policy orientation almost diametrically opposed to the ones offered by either Bush or McCain, whose GOP polices that have been attacked, again and again, by leftist antiwar surrender junkies.

Recall last week we saw Ackerman announce the "
Obama Doctrine of dignity promotion," in which he sees traditional power politics and the use of military force as the fruits of a "corrosive mind-set" infecting the Washington foreign policy establishment. This is the same establishment that would allegedly back a McCain adminisration's "endless wars."

As nasty and foul-mouthed a commentator as Ackerman is (especially on
his blog), there's a tender, soft-hearted idealism nestled right down in the middle of his Obama foreign policy advocacy.

These dignity doctrines, for example, are big on human rights promotion and quality of life indicators. Yet for all of Ackerman's talk of
an unprecented Obama revolution, we've heard this kind of softy language before, back in the 1970s, when President Jimmy Carter shifted American foreign policy away from robust power politics vis-a-vis the Soviets, to a human rights doctrine of appeasement and indecision.

(See, for example,
Slater Bakhtavar, "Jimmy Carter's Human Rights Disaster in Iran," and Victor David Hanson, "The Wages of Appeasement: How Jimmy Carter and Academic Multiculturalists Helped Bring Us Sept. 11.")

Further, Ackerman's also a member of the self-proclaimed and megalomaniacal radical foreign policy netroots, an antiwar faction implacably committed to defeating Bush politically at home rather than prevailing in America's relations abroad (for more on this, see "
Blogging Foreign Policy: Bereft of Credentials, Left Strains to Shift Debate").

These folks, apparently weaned on the mother's milk of post-Vietnam "lessons" of foreign policy, and motivated moral condemnation and a penchant for elite conspiracy, oppose any and all use of American military power (yet, depending on the advocate, say, someone like
Samantha Power, the use of force is fine, as long as it doesn't involve protecting vital national interests).

This really is the context for Ackerman's diatribe against McCain's Los Angeles address. More than any other candidate in campaign '08, the Arizona Senator's got the background and experience to state the case that one doesn't tarry with our enemies, that in defeating them there's no replacement for the use of force as needed, and that sometimes what's required is an unfliching willingness to kill those who want nothing less than the total annihilation of the American state.

The demonizations of perennial warfare aren't completely new. Rather, we're seeing a beefy up version of foreign policy anti-Americanism, that is, antiwar BDS-plus.

Photo Credit: USA Today

McCain is Right on al Qaeda-Iran Alliance in Iraq

Amir Taheri provides a penetrating analysis of Iran's support for Sunni terrorists in Iraq. Forget religious factions - the relationship is political:

The American presidential election campaign took a bizarre theological turn recently when Barack Obama accused John McCain of not being able to distinguish Sunnis from Shiites.

The exchange started when Sen. McCain suggested that the Islamic Republic in Iran, a Shiite power, may be helping al Qaeda, a Sunni outfit, in its murderous campaign in Iraq and elsewhere. Basing its position on received wisdom, the Obama camp implied that Sunnis and Shiites, divided as they are by deep doctrinal differences, could not come together to fight the United States and its allies.

The truth is that Sunni and Shiite extremists have always been united in their hatred of the U.S., and in their desire to "bring it to destruction," in the words of Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar.

The majority of Muslims does not share that hatred and have no particular problem with the U.S. It is the country most visited by Muslim tourists and it attracts the largest number of Muslim students studying abroad.

But to understand the problem with extremists, it is important to set aside the Sunni-Shiite divide and focus on their common hatred of America. Theology is useless here. What we are dealing with is politics.

For Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini, the slogan "Death to America" was as important as the traditional device of Islam "Allah Is The Greatest" – hence his insistence that it be chanted at all public meetings and repeated after each session of the daily prayers. And to that end, Khomeinists have worked with anyone, including brother-enemy Sunnis or even Marxist atheists.

The suicide attacks that claimed the lives of over 300 Americans, including 241 Marines, in Lebanon in 1983, were joint operations of the Khomeinist Hezbollah and the Marxist Arab Socialist Party, which was linked to the Syrian intelligence services. The Syrian regime is Iran's closest ally, despite the fact that Iranian mullahs regard the Alawite minority that dominates it as heretics or worse. Today in Lebanon, Tehran's surrogate, Hezbollah, is in league with a Maronite Christian faction, led by ex-Gen. Michel Aoun, in opposition to a majority bloc that favors close ties with the U.S.

For more than a quarter century, Tehran has been host to the offices of more than three dozen terrorists organizations, from the Colombian FARC to the Palestinian Hamas and passing by half a dozen Trotskyite and Leninist outfits. It also finances many anti-American groups and parties of both extreme right and extreme left in Europe and the Americas. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has bestowed the Muslim title of "brother" on Cuba's Fidel Castro, Venezuela's Hugo Chávez, Bolivia's Evo Morales and Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega. Communist North Korea is the only country with which the Islamic Republic maintains close military-industrial ties and holds joint annual staff sessions.
Read the whole thing, and see also my earlier entry, "McCain and the Iraq Issue."

Poll Weakens Case for Clinton Electoral College Victory

As the Democratic primary contests grinds on, one case made for Hillary Clinton is that she's done better in more populous states, crucial to a November Electoral College victory.

U.S. News reports on
new polling data that's undercutting that argument:

While Hillary Clinton tries to fight her way from behind in the Democratic presidential race, pouring millions of dollars into a last-ditch effort in the Pennsylvania primary, some of her supporters have begun suggesting a novel approach to selecting the nominee—and ending the current political deadlock. Instead of relying on the number of delegates the candidates have won (where Obama enjoys a small lead), the popular vote (which Obama leads by about 700,000 votes), or the number of states won (Obama's 27 trumps her 14), Sen. Evan Bayh, a Clinton backer, suggested this week that the nominee should be selected using another measure: the number of electoral votes the candidates have acquired. "Who carried the states with the most Electoral College votes is an important factor to consider because, ultimately, that's how we choose the president of the United States," Senator Bayh of Indiana said on CNN recently. Using this standard, Clinton, by carrying states like Texas, Ohio, and California, would have tallied a total of 219 Electoral College votes at this point in the race. Obama's wins in smaller states would have garnered him only 202.

A poll released today in California, the home of 55 electoral votes, the most of any state, underscores some of the weaknesses of this new electoral methodology—and serves as a reminder, experts say, of just how difficult it may be to determine a clear winner in the divided Democratic race, even in the states that have already voted.

On Super Tuesday, Clinton won the Golden State's primary by a margin of 52-to-43, surprising political experts with her dominance among Latinos, women, and older voters, in particular. Obama seemed to be unable to break through this electoral firewall. But in a new survey of more than 2,000 California voters, released today by the Public Policy Institute of California, an independent research group based in San Francisco, Obama appears to have experienced a significant bump since then. Over a month after voting in the primary, more Democrats here now say they have a positive view of Obama than of Clinton (78 percent to 74 percent)—a shift, experts say, that may be even larger than it appears, since much of Obama's support in the primary came from independents. Decline-to-state voters, who represent a sizable voting block in California, continue to flock to his campaign (57 percent have a favorable view of Obama, compared with 47 percent for McCain and only 35 percent for Clinton). Overall, more than 6 in 10 voters of all political stripes say they view Obama favorably, compared with 45 percent for Clinton. If the general election were held today, the poll indicates that Obama, not Clinton, would do better here: He polls at 49-to-40 percent over McCain, while Clinton-McCain is a statistical tie (46 percent of voters say they would support Clinton; 43 percent for McCain).

The Bayh approach, in other words—which assumes that because Clinton won the primary in California, she not only still enjoys the support of most voters in the state but would be more likely to win the state's electoral votes in the general election—seems flawed. "There's been a shift, no question about it," says Jaime Regalado, executive director of the Edmund "Pat" Brown Institute of Public Affairs at Cal State University-Los Angeles. "A lot of Democrats, who were once supporters of Hillary's—not bedrock supporters but voted for her on February 5—now they're leaving her."

It's worth noting, experts say, that the poll was conducted during the week of March 11, one of the roughest stretches Obama has experienced in his campaign, as he faced a barrage of questions about race and his relationship with his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. In spite of all the bad publicity, California voters still seem to be moving toward him—or at least away from Clinton. "That makes it all the more remarkable," says Regalado.

The Clinton campaign can't be blamed for trying to swing for the electoral fences, analysts say, but the challenges it faces appear to be growing ever more formidable, even, it seems, in some of the states she's already won. "People are getting tired of the contentiousness of the campaign," says Regalado. "Almost nobody except for Clinton supporters and Clinton herself wants to see this play out all the way into August."
If this new argument gains currency, it'll be interesting to see how long the Clinton camp holds together. Hillary's already under increasing pressure to exit the race, and top campaign operatives will see brighter futures elsewhere, as John Heilemann notes:

Despite all the wailing of the party’s Henny Pennys, my own view is that, in the long run, Clinton’s scuffing up of Obama has so far done him more good than harm; it has toughened him, steeled him, and given him a taste, if only a taste, of what he can expect this fall. But Democrats are right to fear that Clinton may find it irresistible to turn her campaign into an exercise in nothing less (and little more) than political manslaughter against Obama. They’re especially right to be worried that she may want to fight on all summer, all the way to the Denver convention—especially with Clinton now talking openly about a floor fight over seating the disputed Florida and Michigan delegations.

Some senior members of Clinton’s campaign have no intention of sticking around if Obama is substantially ahead come June; as much as they’re devoted to their boss, they want nothing to do with a black-bag operation designed to destroy her rival, no matter what the cost. But these same people are also deeply convinced—beyond spin, beyond talking points, to their core—that Obama would be doomed against McCain. And Clinton believes this, too, which is one important reason why she persists despite odds that grow longer each passing day.

Yet, by an irony, Clinton’s grim assessment of Obama’s chances may also be the best cause for hope that she will, sometime between now and the middle of June, find it in herself to leave the stage with a modicum of grace. It may even be a reason, as Walter Mondale’s campaign manager, Bob Beckel, suggested in a column this week, that she winds up filling, against her instincts, the slot as Obama’s veep. For if HRC believes that Obama will lose in November, there can be no doubt that she’s already calculating, in the back of her head, the best way to position herself for 2012. A scorched-earth campaign against Obama is plainly not the way to do that. A classy exit, a show of unity, an act that apparently places party before self: That’s the ticket.

All of which is why party elders aren’t the last best hope for a peaceful resolution of the Obama-Clinton race. The last best hope is that Hillary will eventually come to see yielding as not merely the path to self-preservation, but also as her only route to long-range self-aggrandizement.
See also, Mario Cuomo, "How to Avoid a Democratic Disaster."